Hard West Review

Despite really digging the idea of the turn based tactical genre, I find I never stick with them long. Either the combat and story doesn’t do it for me, or the between missions sections get too bogged down in the minutia of character stats that I lose interest. Hard West falls folly to some of these same traits, but I still found myself enjoying my time with it for the most part.

The actual in game combat isn’t as deep or nuanced as something like XCOM, but I enjoyed it – mostly for that very reason. Set in an alternate Old West, there’s supernatural goings on mixed in with the gunslinging action that make for a neat addition to the scenarios. Weapons such as the old faithful Six Shooters and Long Rifles are complimented by abilities that allow characters to regenerate their health by cannibalising corpses or sticking to shadows. While some of these abilities are granted based on the scenarios story beats, others are gained by assigning playing cards before each battle. These offer up a variety of effects and can also bestow buffs should certain Poker hands be matched to an individual character.

Each character has two action points to use per turn, often being able to move and shoot in one turn though other, more powerful abilities outright end your go. Accompanying items such as health kits, bombs and buffs can be used in battles, but are of finite use and again are assigned before going in. The menu for this is a little fiddly, with two spaces for weapons, two for items and one for armour, but each space is filled with a different button press rather than just selecting it and it going into an empty slot.

Moving the cursor around highlights where we can move to clearly enough, but often there are multiple floors to houses that can be utilised. Getting the cursor to remain on a floor other than the one the character occupies is a bit finicky; it seems to want to jump up and down of its own accord. Generally the maps are kept pretty small though, and I appreciated that even the bigger ones are clear to navigate easily enough. Line of sight is key of course, but it’s also possible to make use of the environment; cloth tents or flimsy wooden walls can be shot through as long as another team member can spot them, while full and half cover offers up varying degrees of protection.

Also in play is a Luck system; each shot fired has a % chance of hitting its target. Miss, and that percentage is taken off of the enemies luck stat. It pays to have a couple of characters tackle one enemy at a time as a result, as one can knock off a good chunk of luck, all but guaranteeing the second a successful hit. If they don’t die from the attack then their Luck refills by a large amount, so working into good positions with strong weapons is a central tactic. The same is true when our characters are under attack. Luck can also be traded for power moves if you have the right Cards, but as with all gambling if it doesn’t pay off then you’ll leave yourself wide open. All missions require at least one main character to survive, so there’s no room for mucking about.

Some stages start off with a Setup scenario. Here we can move about the map and set our attack up. Unaware enemies can be held up, preventing them from alarming others or attacking for several turns. There are missions that see us needing to rescue someone before attacking and using this tactic is key to success. They’ll stay held up even if we move away from them too, making getting into an ideal space much easier.

There’s not much pizzazz to the fights though. They are presented clearly enough for the most part, but the visuals are pretty basic, the soundtrack likewise, and none of the weapons look or feel like they have any impact outside of bigger numbers falling off of a health bar. A narrative often plays alongside our actions, following a cursed family’s struggle, but despite involving Demons and resurrecting the dead to avenge lost love’s, it’s all very po-faced and un-engaging.

In between fights there are map areas where various activities take place to further the story. Each chapter is its own contained scenario, and the map areas vary as such. The first has us mining for gold while fending off a local Mexican gang lord, while another has us roaming the lands trying to find a cure for our curse. These parts of Hard West are a little tedious in my eyes, as while there’s a hefty dose of story, all they really amount to is following the glowing icons and pressing A. Many have multiple choice actions that may help or hinder you, but I didn’t really notice any ill effects when it came time to battle that made things that much harder.

Conclusion

Hard West is a tough one to recommend; the tactical battles are pretty decent, if perhaps a little lighter in options than some examples of the genre, but it’s also quite po-faced and sterile in its delivery. The in-between map sections are a nice idea though also suffer from the same flaws, as well as not feeling all that engaging or interesting. I liked the supernatural twists across the scenarios though, offering up a little something extra to just cowboys shooting at each other.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Combat is fun, if basic
  • Supernatural elements are a nice touch
Bad
  • Lacks any real atmosphere or excitement
  • Sections between combat are dull
  • Visually and audibly bland
5.3
Average
Gameplay - 5
Graphics - 5
Audio - 5
Longevity - 6
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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